September 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Make It So: Building on the Impulse to Create | Editorial

SLJ1505-Editorial-snapshopEvery once in a while, my work and parenting dovetail in the most wonderful ways. Just last month, a spring squall sent me and my kids scrambling for shelter. That was, of course, a library, the Jefferson Market branch of the New York Public Library. It is an old haunt of mine, and I expected a crowd of like-minded caregivers and their kids. But I found so much more. Beyond a line of strollers, past the children’s room, was a making activity in process. A coordinated melee was underway, with a crowd of kids and adults busily humming over an array of colorful construction paper, scissors, and glue to make paper daffodils. Children’s librarian Rebecca Schosha moved about providing guidance. Within minutes, my daughter was cutting out petals, my son was flopped down absorbed in a book, and I was sitting crisscross on the floor with them proofing pages of SLJ, this “The Maker Issue.” There we were, living a making moment.

The maker movement has taken our culture by storm, and libraries have been stepping up with programs large and small. While some might not view storytime craft projects—such as paper daffodils—as maker, others recognize their vital place on the creation continuum. We at SLJ see the SLJ_CV_May2015nimble response from the library world and recognize how much remains unknown or untested. As the mix of coverage here illustrates, making happens on many scales, high-tech and low, and the engagement and learning is powerful. In the spirit of that widely ranging initiative in the field and beyond, we are proud to bring you this dedicated issue, spearheaded by Executive Editor Kathy Ishizuka.

“Maker spaces are red hot right now and being embraced by libraries, school and public. The dynamism is palpable and exciting to see,” says Ishizuka about the inspiration behind the maker issue. “Beyond reporting great programs out there, we wanted to step back and take a fuller view of this popular trend to explore what it all means. What are the connections to learning? How do maker activities serve the community? And this implies engaging the particular needs of your community, whether it’s special education students at a Brooklyn vocational institution, teenagers in a suburban Virginia high school, or a knitting circle of elders who congregate at their local public library branch.”

Ishizuka also notes that we wanted to “chip away—in our small, yet subversive way—at a couple of myths, starting with maker as synonymous with maker space.” In short: no dedicated space is required. And there’s a deep and informative exploration of the real learning potential of 3-D printing by Chad Sansing (“Worth the Hype?”).

“No matter the type of making,” adds Ishizuka, “I think it all comes down to human engagement, whether that’s face-to-face workshops, such as Black Girls Code or a few students working out a design challenge together using plastic cups. To work in community is more fun, of course, and certainly more messy.”

Messy, indeed, and exciting, as you’ll see in the many projects profiled here.

The team at SLJ will continue to surface maker trends and best practices. And we want to help you take your work to the next level. Toward that end, we’re pleased to offer a related online professional development course, the four-week “Maker Workshop”.

No matter where your library lands on the maker continuum, there’s plenty to dig into here as you think about what to do next. However you proceed, we’d love to hear about it and how it’s working for you and your community.


Rebecca T. Miller

This article was published in School Library Journal's May 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller ( is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.

Maker Workshop
In this two-week online course, you’ll create a maker program that aligns with your budget and community needs, with personal coaching from maker experts—from libraries and beyond—May 23 & June 6, 2018.